The Essential Durer

The Essential Durer

Larry Silver
Jeffrey Chipps Smith
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Essential Durer
    Book Description:

    Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), perhaps the most famous of all German artists, embodies the modern ideal of the Renaissance man-he was a remarkable painter, printmaker, draftsman, designer, theoretician, and even a poet. More is known about his thoughts and his life than about any other Northern European master of his time, since he wrote extensively about himself, his family's history, his travels, and his friends. His woodcuts and engravings were avidly collected and copied across Europe, and they quickly established his reputation as a master. Praised in life and elegized in death by such thinkers as Martin Luther and Erasmus, he served Emperor Maximilian and other leading church and secular princes in the Holy Roman Empire.

    Although there is a vast specialized literature on the Nuremberg master,The Essential Dürerfills the need for a foundational book that covers the major aspects of his career. The essays included in this book, written by leading scholars from the United States and Germany, provide an accessible, up-to-date examination of Dürer's art and person as well as his posthumous fame. The essays address an array of topics, from separate and detailed studies of his paintings, drawings, printmaking, and sculpture, to broader concerns such as his visits to and interactions with Venice and the Netherlands, his personal relationships, and his relationships with other artists. Collectively these stimulating essays explore the brilliance of Dürer's creativity and the impact he had on his world, exposing him as an artist fully engaged with the tumultuous intellectual and religious challenges of his time.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0601-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. 1 Dürer—Man, Media, and Myths
    (pp. 1-11)
    Larry Silver

    Few artists have ever been so fully exploited—and in so many different ways—by later admirers as Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). Like a Rorschach inkblot, the imagery of this Nuremberg artist has been co-opted: to justify “Germanness” itself in both art and politics (including Nazi politics in the twentieth century) but also to celebrate a “Northern Renaissance” of dispersed classical culture as a form of cosmopolitan participation in (and sometimes competition with) Italy’s concurrent “High Renaissance” of contemporaries Michelangelo and Raphael.¹ Dürer has been seen as an embodiment of urban, bourgeois culture in his home city, yet he also...

  7. 2 Dürer’s Drawings
    (pp. 12-34)
    Christiane Andersson and Larry Silver

    In any assessment of Dürer’s art, the role played by drawing can scarcely be overestimated.¹ It was his most basic, most constant, and most important form of expression, the graphic barometer of his life and artistic development. Throughout his life he drew continually and daily, unlike his work in other media; he painted or made engravings, woodcuts, or etchings only during certain phases of his career, and alternated between them. Drawing was the basic experimental tool with which he developed his ideas for all his work in all media. This was not necessarily the norm during the Renaissance: Titian, for...

  8. 3 Dürer and the High Art of Printmaking
    (pp. 35-61)
    Charles Talbot

    When Dürer was still in his twenties, his contemporaries began to compare him with the great artists of antiquity.¹ We no longer take his measure in this way, but the analogy drawn by Erasmus of Rotterdam still serves as a touchstone in modern commentaries on his prints.² Dürer trumped Apelles, so Erasmus reasoned, because the latter required colors to accomplish what Dürer could do with black lines alone. Evocation of the name Apelles not only invites a question about the standards of great art in the sixteenth century but also, and especially on this occasion, about the capacity of prints...

  9. 4 Dürer as Painter
    (pp. 62-73)
    Katherine Crawford Luber

    Albrecht Dürer was celebrated during his lifetime for his skill as both a painter and a draftsman. Subsequently, his paintings have received significantly less critical attention than his graphic works, his theoretical writings, or his biography—with the artist cast as an exemplar of artistic genius living within a medieval guild-based society in northern Europe.¹ This has contributed, in turn, to the pervasive assumption that Dürer’s paintings are inferior in quality to his graphic work, and that as a painter, Dürer was less accomplished (and less intriguing) than he was as a draftsman. The retrieval of the under-drawings hidden in...

  10. 5 Dürer and Sculpture
    (pp. 74-98)
    Jeffrey Chipps Smith

    In 1499 or 1500, Conrad Celtis, imperial poet laureate, favorably compared Albrecht Dürer with antiquity’s most renowned artists.¹ From a humanist, there could be no higher form of praise. During and after his life, Dürer was often dubbed the German Apelles or, in Erasmus’s words, the Apelles of “black lines.”² His association with Apelles, Alexander the Great’s painter, makes sense. This short essay, however, will consider Dürer’s Phidian side. The Greek Phidias (ca. 500–432 B.C.E.) was a painter and, far more important, a sculptor. Regardless of whether Celtis had anything definite in mind when he associated phidias and Dürer,...

  11. 6 Dürer and Venice
    (pp. 99-114)
    Andrew Morrall

    Dürer’s “Italian journeys” have consistently held an important place in the scholarship surrounding the artist’s art and life. His first visit, usually dated 1494–95, came at a formative time in the artist’s career, between the end of hisWanderjahre(1490–94) and his first great creative period as an established master. His second stay in Venice, between 1505 and early 1507, afforded him even more protracted contact with Italian Renaissance art and culture, allowing him to explore and respond to technical, aesthetic, and theoretical aspects of contemporary Italian painting. Writers of the Romantic period used Dürer’s travels south to...

  12. 7 The Artist, His Horse, a Print, and Its Audience: Producing and Viewing the Ideal in Dürer’s Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513)
    (pp. 115-129)
    Pia F. Cuneo

    Within the oeuvre of Albrecht Dürer, several works stand out as especially evocative. Laden with visual cues that seem redolent with significance, the images appear almost to hail the viewer and to demand attention and interpretation. Many scholars have hearkened to their call. Dürer’sSelf-Portraitof 1500 (A. 66; see Figure 12.3) and his engravingMelencolia Iof 1514 (B. 74; see Figure 3.1) belong to this category of pictorially enticing images that have provoked widespread critical response; so does the artist’s engraving ofKnight, Death, and the Devilof 1513 (B. 98; Figure 7.1).¹ Like the two former images...

  13. 8 Civic Courtship: Albrecht Dürer, the Saxon Duke, and the Emperor
    (pp. 130-148)
    Larry Silver

    If we follow Martin Warnke and take Italian Renaissance painters, especially Andrea Mantegna with the Gonzagas at Mantua, as the defining paradigm of the court artist, the very opposite of the civic guild artist, then the career of Albrecht Dürer in his native city of Nuremberg (like Van Eyck before him in Bruges and Rubens after him in Antwerp) fails to conform.¹ He never had to move to a court, and he worked for several princes, most notably Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony (r. 1486–1525), and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1493–1519). The different art that...

  14. 9 Dürer and the Netherlands: Patterns of Exchange and Mutual Admiration
    (pp. 149-165)
    Dagmar Eichberger

    When Albrecht Dürer decided to travel to the Habsburg Netherlands in the autumn of 1520, the painter-engraver from Nuremberg was no longer a young man seeking further training or visual inspiration. By then he had almost reached the age of fifty and was a mature artist of international standing. He had so far preferred to look to Italy for theoretical guidance and artistic inspiration. In the course of his artistic career, he had developed a personal style, had refined his method of painting, and was working toward a written theory of art.

    The main aim of this trip was to...

  15. 10 Agony in the Garden: Dürer’s “Crisis of the Image”
    (pp. 166-184)
    Donald McColl

    These words, uttered by the character Anthony in Thomas More’sA Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation(1534), were written while More himself was going though a crisis.¹ Caught in a struggle between his sovereign, King Henry VIII, and the pope, the head of the Roman Church, of which he was still faithfully a part, this chancellor of the realm would soon be put to death for his refusal to declare Henry the supreme head of the Church of England. But according to More, we must not despair, not merely because despair is a mortal sin, but also because Christ himself...

  16. 11 Albrecht Dürer between Agnes Frey and Willibald Pirckheimer
    (pp. 185-205)
    Corine Schleif

    Two sources leave telling traces of tensions in Albrecht Dürer’s closest personal relationships. One, a letter that Dürer wrote to Willibald Pirckheimer, preserves for us a shocking and intimate exchange between the two men. Dürer sent the missive from Venice in 1506 and dated it “about fourteen days after St. Michael’s Day,” which places it in the middle of October. It subsequently remained lost and forgotten for centuries together with other letters and papers behind a secret panel in a Nuremberg house (Figure 11.1).¹ The subject of the discussion was the artist’s wife, Agnes: “And as for what you wrote...

  17. 12 Impossible Distance: Past and Present in the Study of Dürer and Grünewald
    (pp. 206-226)
    Keith Moxey

    By way of a case study of the changing historiographic fortunes of Albrecht Dürer and Matthias Grünewald (ca. 1475 /80–1528), this essay reflects on an important assumption underlying the disciplinary activities of art history—the idea ofhistorical distance.¹ The rich literature on this subject in the philosophy of history has prompted this consideration as to whether, and to what extent, the special circumstances of specifically art historical writing demand a different approach to its analysis. Art historical literature offers a number of ways in which the distance between the historical horizon under consideration and that of the interpreting...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 227-276)
    (pp. 277-280)
  20. List of Contributors
    (pp. 281-282)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 283-294)